The Alpaca Dictionary

White alpaca cria with fine fleece

To pick the best alpacas and understand why some animals are superior, you need to understand the technical jargon. Here is our introduction to the terms you need to know.

Percentage of fibres above 30 micron - >30%
In a fibre test report, this measurement is given as a percentage and indicates the number of fibres above 30 microns in the sample tested. Fibres exceeding 30 microns are considered coarse and will have the "Prickle Factor" if used in garment making. A low >30% is desirable to indicate uniformity of the finer fibres throughout the blanket area of the fleece.

Average Fibre Diameter - AFD.
The average fibre diameter of fibres submitted in a fleece sample. The result is given in microns with 1 micron = 1/10000th of a millimetre or 1/25,400th of an inch. A low micron count is desirable. This indicates the fineness of the blanket area of the animal's fleece.

Coefficient of Variation - CV%.
In a fibre test report, the Coefficient of Variation indicates the relationship between the Standard Deviation and the Average Fibre Diameter and is shown as a percentage. The formula for calculating the CV is as follows. Standard Deviation divided by Average Fibre Diameter x 100 = CV% A low CV percentage is desirable in breeding animals.

Clostridial Diseases
Diseases caused by the Clostridia family of bacteria. These can be fatal and can live for years in the soil. Alpacas should have a regular vaccination programme as advised by your vet.

Conformation
The shape and proportions of the alpaca, including the size, length and shape of legs and neck

Cria
A baby alpaca, sometimes sold 'at foot' (with the mother)

Crimp
The slight wave or corrugation in each lock or across the whole fleece, that helps hold the fibres together, allowing it to be processed into a finer yarn. Closely related to crinkle. Crimp and Crinkle are sometimes described as having high or low frequency.

Crinkle
Term for the wave in one individual strand of fibre. Crimp and Crinkle are sometimes described as having high or low frequency.

Dam
Adult breeding female - mother of a cria.

Density of Fleece
The number of hair follicles to the square measured. High fleece density is desirable.

Handle
Describes how soft or harsh the fleece feels to the hand. A low Average Fibre Diameter should give a better handle.

Huacaya
The most popular variety of Alpaca, with a dense crimped fleece giving the animal a more rounded shape. The other variety is Suri.

Lustre
The texture of the fleece and how much it reflects light and looks attractively glossy. Sometimes described as brightness.

Maiden
Mature female ready to breed for the first time - usually between 18 and 24 months old.

Standard Deviation - SD.
In a fibre test report, the Standard Deviation indicates the amount of variation from the AFD (Average Fibre Diameter) in the group of fibres tested. For example, in a test that indicates an AFD of 20.0 with a SD of 3.0 then 68% of the tested fibres will fall between 17.0 and 23.0 micron. A low Standard Deviation is desirable to show uniformity in the tested fibres.

Shear Weight or Fleece Weight
The weight of the entire fleece, including all usable fibre that is sheared from the animal.

Sire
Adult breeding male or father of a cria. (Sometimes called 'herdsire')

Spit-off
When alpacas become pregnant, they quickly become unwilling to be approached by a male. A pregnant alpaca will usually run and spit at a male that approaches her, and repeated 'spit-offs' are a good sign that a pregnancy is progressing normally. An ultrasound scan is used to confirm pregnancy.

Staple Length
The length of fibre in the fleece. Staple length together with density will indicate the weight of the fleece.

Suri
A more rarely kept variety of alpaca with long silky fleece that drapes the body rather than forming a dense covering as in the Huacaya. The fleece has no crimp, and forms soft 'pencil' locks.

Two-coated Fleece
Primitive fleece made up partly of soft fibre and partly of coarse hair. Better fleeces are more uniform and softer throughout.

Uniformity
How consistent the fleece is across the whole animal. An animal with good uniformity will have a fleece that is dense and soft all over, with no thin patches or coarse areas.

Weanling
A young alpaca, usually between 6 months to 1 year old, that is no longer nursing.

Yearling
Juvenile alpaca between the age of 1 and 2 years.

   Hayne Alpacas